Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"The spontaneity of slaps is sincerity, whereas the ceremonial of caresses is largely convention." - Ugo Betti

"Beliefs, desires, and intentions are a condition of language, but language is also a condition for them. On the other hand, being able to attribute beliefs and desires to a creature is certainly a condition of sharing a convention with that creature; while, if I am right... convention is not a condition of language. I suggest, then, that philosopher who make convention a necessary element in language have the matter backwards. The truth is rather that language is a condition for having conventions." - Donald Davidson

"The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous convention of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"Custom and convention govern human activities." - Pyrrho (or Pyrrhon), aka Pyrrho of Elis NULL

"The diploma gives society a phantom guarantee and its holders phantom rights. The holder of a diploma passes officially for possessing knowledge... comes to believe tht society owes him something. Never has a convention been created which is more unfortunate, for every one - the state, the individual (and, in particular, culture)." - Paul Valéry, fully Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry

"This is the essence of the problem faced by evolutionists wanting to engage ethical questions. The evolutionary humanist is pressed to an inescapable conclusion: There are no absolute moral standards, and morality is merely the result of an interplay between evolution, tradition, and social convention, which can be altered, updated, and changed depending on the situation... diminished responsibility." - Joe Boot

"If morality be regarded as a mere convention, and God as the projection of men’s hopes and fears, then the way is open for the false religions which relieve the maimed will of the many from the burden of decision." - Sydney Cave

"The opened mind can be relaxed and playful. It is filled with curiosity and wonder. There is something childlike about it. It loves to get off the beaten track, to explore paths that are not the ones taken by social convention." - Frank Barron, Alfonso Montuori & Anthea Barron

"Nietzsche’s approach developed eventually into a program for radically questioning all the foundations of Western thought. We are slaves to convention, he says - we base our whole lives on attitudes and ideas whose premises, if we ever get round to actually examining them, we reject. This makes ours an inauthentic way of living, a dead way of living. We must re-evaluate our values in the light of what we honestly do believe and feel." - J. P. Stern, fully Joseph Peter Maria Stern

"The family requires the most delicate mixture of nature and convention, of human and divine, to subsist and perform its function. Its base is merely bodily reproduction, but its purpose is the formation of civilized human beings." - Allan Bloom, fully Allan David Bloom

"Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departures as a criticism of themselves. They will pardon much unconventionality in a man who has enough jollity and friendliness to make it clear, even to the stupidest, that he is not engaged in criticizing them." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"Only life can satisfy the demands of life... Don’t be afraid of yourself, live your individuality to the full - but for the good of others. Don’t copy others in order to buy fellowship, or make convention your law instead of living the righteousness." - Dag Hammarskjöld

"Time doesn't exist; what we refer to as "past" and "future" have no reality except in our own mental constructs. The idea of time is a convention of thought and language, a social agreement; in truth, we only have this moment." - Dan Millman, born Daniel Jay Millman

"We can do nothing at all. Jefferson foresaw the eventual degradation of our system and he suggested that we hold a constitutional convention once a generation. But neither the rulers nor their hapless critics will allow such a thing." -

"Convention and nature are generally at variance with one another." - Plato NULL

" To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience." -

"From whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: “I make with you a convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.”" -

"From whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: “I make with you a convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.” " - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"The disruptive powers of excessive national fecundity may have played a greater part in bursting the bonds of convention than either the power of ideas or the errors of autocracy. " - John Maynard Keynes

"A political convention is not a place where you can come away with any trace of faith in human nature." - Murray Kempton, fully James Murray Kempton

"It is safe to wager that every public idea and every accepted convention is sheer foolishness, because it has suited the majority." - Nicolas Chamfort,fully Sébastien-Roch Nicolas De Chamfort, also spelled Nicholas

"In their new personal development the girl and the woman will only be for a short time imitations of the good and bad manners of man and reiterations of man's professions. After the uncertainty of this transition it will appear that women have passed through those many, often ridiculous, changes of disguise, only to free themselves from the disturbing influence of the other sex. For women, in whom life tarries and dwells in a more incommunicable, fruitful and confident form, must at bottom have become richer beings, more ideally human beings than fundamentally easy-going man, who is not drawn down beneath the surface of life by the difficulty of bearing bodily fruit, and who arrogantly and hastily undervalues what he means to love. When this humanity of woman, borne to the full in pain and humiliation, has stripped off in the course of the changes of its outward position the old convention of simple feminine weakness, it will come to light, and man, who cannot yet feel it coming, will be surprised and smitten by it. One day" - Rainer Maria Rilke, full name René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke

"Sex is difficult; yes. But those tasks that have been entrusted to us are difficult; almost everything serious is difficult; and everything is serious. If you just recognize this and manage, out of yourself, out of your own talent and nature, out of your own experience and childhood and strength, to achieve a wholly individual relation to sex (one that is not influenced by convention and custom), then you will no longer have to be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your dearest possession." - Rainer Maria Rilke, full name René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke

"I don't believe you until you tell me, do you really believe, for example, if they say they are Catholic, Do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer, it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that? Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood? Mock them. Ridicule them. In public. Don't fall for the convention that we're all too polite to talk about religion. Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated and need to be challenged and, if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt." - Richard Dawkins

"We lust, because our ancestors' lust helped pass their lustful genes on to us. Here, as it happens, Darwinism agrees with commonsense: the convention works. But sometimes the convention breaks down. If we are on the Pill, or know that our sexual partner is, it doesn't diminish our desire. We still inherit the ancient rule of thumb, now out of date. As Steven Pinker says, in his splendid book How the Mind Works, Had the Pleistocene contained trees bearing birth-control pills, we might have evolved to find them as terrifying as a venomous spider." - Richard Dawkins

"We'll always be happy with more convention space or plenary space, ... The city can always use it." - Robert Boyle

"The future is not Big Government. Self-serving politicians. Powerful bureaucrats. This has been tried, tested throughout history. The result has always been disaster. President Obama, your agenda is not new. It's not change, and it's not hope." - Rush Limbaugh

"The truth does not require a majority to prevail, ladies and gentlemen. The truth is its own power. The truth will out. Never forget that." - Rush Limbaugh

"Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty." - Samuel Adams

"Propositions prey upon and are grounded upon one another just like living forms. They support one another as plants and animals do; they are based ultimately on credit, or faith, rather than the cash of irrefragable conviction. The whole universe is carried on on the credit system, and if the mutual confidence on which it is based were to collapse, it must itself collapse immediately. Just or unjust, it lives by faith; it is based on vague and impalpable opinion that by some inscrutable process passes into will and action, and is made manifest in matter and in flesh; it is meteoric — suspended in mid-air; it is the baseless fabric of a vision to vast, so vivid, and so gorgeous that no base can seem more broad than such stupendous baselessness, and yet any man can bring it about his ears by being over-curious; when faith fails, a system based on faith fails also." - Samuel Butler

"It is my rule never to take a side in any part in the quarrels of others, nor to inquire into them. I generally presume them to flow from the indulgence of too much passion on both sides, and always find that each party thinks all the wrong was in his adversary. These bickerings, which are always useless, embitter human life more than any other cause..." - Thomas Jefferson

"In all His acts God orders all things, whether good or evil, for the good of those who know Him and seek Him and who strive to bring their own freedom under obedience to His divine purpose. All that is done by the will of God in secret is done for His glory and for the good of those whom He has chosen to share in His glory." - Thomas Merton

"True sanctity does not consist in trying to live without creatures. It consists in using the goods of life in order to do the will of God. It consists in using God’s creation in such a way that everything we touch and see and use and love gives new glory to God. To be a saint means to pass through the world gathering fruits for heaven from every tree and reaping God’s glory in every field. The saint is one who is in contact with God in every possible way, in every possible direction. He is united to God by the depths of his own being. He sees and touches God in everything and everyone around him. Everywhere he goes, the world rings and resounds (though silently) with the deep harmonies of God’s glory." - Thomas Merton

"All there is to politics is trading. That’s why politics is not as good as it was years ago. They don’t have as many old-time horse traders in there. These we got are just amateurs. They’re crude with their trades. There is really no “finesse.” You might not get that. “Finesse” is a French word and it means sneaking it over." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"But there was lots of lawyers among the guests, and I knew cows better than I did lawyers. There is a way of studying a cow and learning all about her, but a lawyer? There has never been any course at college devised where you can take in What Makes A Lawyer Like He Is? This young Bill Hearst, Jr. is a mighty promising young fellow, and looks like he is going to pick up W. R.'s [William Randolph Hearst's] trail and keep the ink smearing over half the pulp wood of Canada." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"Call me a “rube” and a “hick,” but I’d lot rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"The American people are a very generous people and will forgive almost any weakness, with the possible exception of stupidity." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I run into prowling around. A couple of weeks ago out here in the City of Angels we had quite a distinguished gathering. They called themselves the American Bar Association, and they was quite an array. I went down one night just as the thing was getting started and did some rough and tumbled blathering for 'em. What I mean is I made a speech." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"Will it alter my life altogether?" - W. H. Auden, fully Wystan Hugh Auden

"It is a still stranger thing that there is nothing so delightful in the world as telling stories. It is far pleasanter than writing reviews of famous novels." - Virginia Woolf, nee Stephen, fully Adeline Virginia Woolf

"God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever." - Vance Havner

"Wanting to get married, for me, is all about a desire to feel chosen. She went on to write that while the concept of building a life together with another adult was appealing, what really pulled at her heart was the desire for a wedding, a public event that will unequivocally prove to everyone, especially to myself, that I am precious enough to have been selected by somebody forever." - Elizabeth Gilbert

"Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman's thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government." - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"Atheism... in its philosophic aspect refuses allegiance not merely to a definite concept of God, but it refuses all servitude to the God idea, and opposes the theistic principle as such. Gods in their individual function are not half as pernicious as the principle of theism which represents the belief in a supernatural, or even omnipotent, power to rule the earth and man upon it. It is the absolutism of theism, its pernicious influence upon humanity, its paralyzing effect upon thought and action, which Atheism is fighting with all its power." - Emma Goldman

"I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love, and freedom in motherhood." - Emma Goldman

"I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years been working to undo the botched job your god has made." - Emma Goldman

"No one knows, at sight a masterpiece. And give up verse, my boy, there's nothing in it. Likewise a friend of Bloughram's once advised me: Don't kick against the pricks, accept opinion. The Nineties tried your game and died, there's nothing in it." - Ezra Pound, fully Ezra Weston Loomis Pound

"Aure entuluva! day shall come again!" -